CHAPTER XXIX.CAUDLE AND CHRISTENING CUPS AND CEREMONIES.
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We are asked by many young mammas as to the meaning of the phrase “caudle parties.”
Formerly the persons who called to congratulate the happy possessor of a new boy or girl were offered mulled wine and plum-cake. Some early chronicler thinks that the two got mixed, and that candle was the result.
Certain it is that a most delicious beverage, a kind of oatmeal gruel, boiled “two days,” with raisins and spices, and fine old Madeira (some say rum) added, makes a dish fit to set before a king, and is offered now to the callers on a young mamma. The old English custom was to have this beverage served three days after the arrival of the little stranger. The caudle-cups, preserved in many an old family, are now eagerly Sought after as curiosities; they have two handles, so they could be passed from one to another. They were handed down as heirlooms when these candle parties were more fashionable than they have been, until a recent date. Now there is a decided idea of reintroducing them. In those days the newly-made papa also entertained his friends with a stag party, when bachelors and also Benedicks were invited to eat buttered toast, which was sugared and
spread in a mighty punch-bowl, over which boiling-hot beer was poured. After the punch-bowl was emptied, each guest placed a piece of money in the bowl for the nurse. Strong ale was brewed, and a pipe of wine laid by to be drunk on the majority of the child.
This greasy mess is fortunately now extinct, but the candle, a really delicious dish or drink, is the fashion again. It is generally offered when master or miss is about six weeks old, and mamma receives her friends in a tea gown or some pretty convalescent wrap, very often made of velvet or plush cut in the form of a belted-in jacket and skirt, or in one long princesse robe, elaborately trimmed with cascades of lace down the front. The baby is, of course, shown, but not much handled. Some parents have the christening and the candle party together, but of this, it is said, the Church does not approve.
The selection of god-parents is always a delicate task. It is a very great compliment, of course, to ask any one to stand in this relation, highly regarded in England, but not so much thought of here. Formerly there were always two godfathers and two godmothers, generally chosen from friends and relations, who were expected to watch over the religious education of the young child, and to see that he was, in due time, confirmed. In all old countries this relationship lasts through life; kindly help and counsel being given to the child by the godfather–even to adoption in many instances–should the parents die. But in our new country, with the absence of an established Church, and with our belief in the power of every man to take care of himself, this beautiful
relationship has been neglected. We are glad to see by our letters that it is being renewed, and that people are thinking more of these time-honored connections.
After a birth, friends and acquaintances should call and send in their cards, or send them by their servants, with kind inquiries. When the mother is ready to see her friends, she should, if she wishes, signify that time by sending out cards for a “caudle party.” But let her be rather deliberate about this unless she has a mother, or aunt, or sister to take all the trouble for her.
The godfather and godmother generally give some little present; a silver cup or porringer, knife, fork, and spoon, silver basin, coral tooth-cutter, or coral and bells, were the former gifts; but, nowadays, we hear of one wealthy godfather who left a check for $100,000 in the baby’s cradle; and it is not unusual for those who can do so to make some very valuable investment for the child, particularly if he bears the name of the godfather.
Some people–indeed, most people–take their children to church to be baptized, and then give a lunch-con at home afterwards to which all are invited, especially the officiating clergyman and his wife, as well as the sponsors. The presents should be given at this time. Old-fashioned people give the baby some salt and an egg for good luck, and are particular that he should be carried up-stairs before he is carried down, and that when he goes out first he shall be carried to the house of some near and dear relative.
Confirmation is in the Episcopal Church the sequel
to baptism; and in France this is a beautiful and very important ceremony. In the month of May the streets are filled with white doves–young girls, all in muslin and lace veils, going with their mothers or chaperons to be confirmed. Here the duty of the godfather or the godmother comes in; and if a child is an orphan, or has careless or irreligious parents, the Church holds the godparent responsible that these children be brought to the bishop to be confirmed.
Notices of confirmation to be held are always given out in the various churches some weeks prior to the event; and persons desirous of being admitted to the rite are requested to make known their wish and to give their names to their clergyman. Classes are formed, and instruction and preparation given during the weeks preceding the day which the bishop has appointed. In England a noble English lady is as much concerned for her goddaughter through all this important period as she is for her daughter. In France the obligation is also considered sacred. We have known of a lady who made the journey from Montpellier to Paris–although she could scarcely afford the expense–to attend the confirmation of her goddaughter, although the young girl had a father and mother.
It is a ceremony well worth seeing, either in England or France. The girls walk in long processions through the streets; the dress uniformly of white with long veils. Youths follow in black suits, black ties, and gloves; they enter one aisle of the church, the girls the other. When the time arrives for the laying on of hands, the girls go first, two and two;
they give their card or certificate into the hands of the bishop’s chaplain, who stands near to receive them. The candidates kneel before the bishop, who lays his hands severally on their heads.
Of course persons not belonging to the Episcopal Church do not observe this rite. But as a belief in baptism is almost universal, there is no reason why the godfather and godmother should not be chosen and adhered to. We always name our children, or we are apt to, for some dear friend; and we would all gladly believe that such a friendship, begun at the altar when he is being consecrated to a Christian life, may go with him and be a help to the dear little man. In our belligerent independence and our freedom from creeds and cant we have thrown away too much, and can afford to reassert our belief in and respect for a few old customs.
Royalty has always been a respecter of these powers. King Edward VI. and his sisters were each baptized when only three days old, and the ceremony, which lasted between two and three days, took place at night, by torch-light. The child was carried under a canopy, preceded by gentlemen bearing in state the sponsors’ gifts, and attended by a flourish of trumpets.
At a modern caudle party the invitations are sent out a week in advance, and read thus:
Mr. and Mrs. Brown request the pleasure of your company on Tuesday afternoon, at three o’clock. 18 West Kent Street. Caudle.
“No presents are expected.”
For the honor of being a godfather one receives a note in the first person, asking the friend to assume
that kindly office, and also mentioning the fact that the name will be so and so. If the baby is named for the godfather, a very handsome present is usually made; if not, the godfather or godmother still sends some little token of regard. This, however, is entirely a matter of fancy. No one is obliged to give a present, of course.
The baby at his christening is shown off in a splendid robe, very much belaced and embroidered, and it is to be feared that it is a day of disturbance for him. Babies should not be too much excited; a quiet and humdrum existence, a not too showy nurse, and regular hours are conducive to a good constitution for these delicate visitors. The gay dresses and jingling ornaments of the Roman nurses are now denounced by the foreign doctors as being too exciting to the little eyes that are looking out on a new world. They are very pretty and picturesque, and many a travelling mamma goes into a large outlay for these bright colors and for the peasant jewelry. The practice of making a child Fide backward in a push-wagon is also sternly denounced by modern physicians.
Fashionable mammas who give candle parties should remember that in our harsh climate maternity is beset by much feebleness as to nerves in both mother and child; therefore a long seclusion in the nursery is advised before the dangerous period of entertaining one’s friends begins. Let the candle party wait, and the christening be done quietly in one’s own bedroom, if the infant is feeble. Show off the young stranger at a later date: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.